Freshman Cam Hilton arrived as a safety, but his role already is changing at Missouri.
Hilton, a 6-foot, 180-pound two-way standout from Webster Groves High in St. Louis, was buried on the defensive depth chart, but he appears to have found a home as a slot receiver behind sophomore Nate Brown and redshirt freshman Ray Wingo.
On the Tigers’ opening drive last week against South Carolina, Hilton made a terrific reaching catch on a Drew Lock pass thrown too far in front of him.
Hilton’s 9-yard gain on third-and-7 kept MU’s first touchdown drive alive.
“He has tremendous hands,” Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Henson said. “He really catches the ball well. When the ball gets close to him, he’s pretty much going to catch it. He’s going to come down with the ball.”
Hilton, who totaled 900 yards and 14 touchdowns as a wide receiver his senior year in high school, also featured as the Tigers’ top punt returner in a 24-10 win against the Gamecocks.
“He’s a really good athlete,” MU coach Gary Pinkel said. “He’s just got to learn more. … The transition is difficult, but for a guy like himself, it’s going to be easier than most. He’s smart, he’s very worldly, he understands space. You saw him on punt returns, getting back there. He’s a very confident young guy. It’s just exciting he can get in there and help us a little bit.”
Henson was thrilled with Hilton’s progress in only a few weeks working with the offense.
“Just in a week-and-a-half’s time, he’s picked up a lot of things on the offense, so I think you’re going to have a guy that’s going to be a very headsy player and he’s also going to be, from a catching standpoint, almost a possession type guy that you’re really going to count on in the slot,” Henson said.
The offensive staff didn’t lobby to add Hilton, Henson said, but Pinkel decided he might be able to make more impact on offense than defense this season and suggested the move.
Hilton will have the option to move back to safety during spring practice.